A meat lottery. Time off, with or without pay. Streaming channel subscriptions. A membership to Sam’s Club. Are these employee benefits?
Absolutely. And they’re helping quick lube business owners grab hold of the ever-elusive employee of 2023.
The idea: “Find something your employees like and benefit from, and use it to your advantage,” states Penny Yountz, a Statesville, North Carolina, auto industry benefits expert with Employers Advantage LLC, an HR company for small businesses.
Historically, for most workers that included benefits that helped them take care of their families—things like medical, dental, and vision insurance, short-term and long-term disability, and other core offerings.
For younger employees today, though, the benefits of old are lackluster. Instead, Yountz says they’re oftentimes in search of “work/life balance” options, a workplace term coined by the latest generations.
The Needs of Modern-Day Employees
“They want the ability and freedom to live their best life now,” Yountz says. “That may mean the flexibility to modify start and stop times. DoorDash or TV subscriptions—they’re interested in having employers pay for these things or provide accounts. If they’re under the age of 26, they’re still on their parents’ medical plan, so medical, dental, and vision is the least of their concerns.”
It’s a good thing, because many mom-and-pop shops in the quick lube arena are small enough that they can’t afford to offer health insurance anyway.
“Health insurance is way too expensive if you have under 25 employees,” states John Joback of 10 Minit Oil Change in Fort Myers, Florida. He says it’s a benefit he personally can’t offer.
Where that’s the case, Yountz says employers might consider offering a stipend so employees can purchase insurance on their own. “In the 5-10 employee range,” she notes, “This has become more popular.”
Something else Joback steers clear of are sales bonuses. “Instead, I pay people a little more because I don’t want them making pressure sales and turning people away,” he says. “Seventy-five percent of customers who are unhappy won’t say anything, they just don’t come back. So, we don’t do pressure sales.”
What Joback does offer is matching bonuses at Christmastime.
“I give them another check three weeks before Christmas that matches their salary,” he shares.
It’s mom-and-pop auto shop operations, like Joback’s, that Yountz enjoys focusing on most. She finds that there are always creative, highly useful things of value that small shop owners can offer their employees, if they’re willing to investigate a bit.
“So, I tell my clients, ‘Ask your employees,’” Yountz advises. “So many companies hesitate asking questions because they’re scared of the answers. But they can get really good ideas of things that are valuable.”
Eat and Learn
Food, Yountz has found, is a perk that’s particularly high on the list of prime benefits in many employees’ minds.
One small company she works with, realizing how much its employees loved any type of food benefits, put together an ingenious meat lottery. When grocery prices started going up, the mom-and-pop went to a local butcher, got a cow, and instituted the monthly event.
“One month the lottery was for hamburgers, and T-bone steaks another,” Yountz describes.
Education, too, is a highly valued benefit among younger workers today, she finds, although they tend to seek it in different forms than previous generations. For example, small shops might offer to pay for training that keeps employees up to date, and then reward the employee once the course is complete. The reward, she says, doesn’t necessarily have to be more money.
“I have one client who has created this culture with peg boards at everybody’s station, and you get a pin every time you complete training,” Yountz says. “It promotes pride and allows people to talk about what they did and how they got the pin. In the automotive world, there are so many different kinds of training – hydraulics, pneumatics, etc.”
Subscriptions and Memberships
“Several years ago, a client wanted to add some type of pet insurance to their benefits offering,” Yountz shares. “But like I said, sometimes there’s hesitation to ask employees for their opinions. So, I asked this client if they had a population who would really want that.”
When the company finally asked, only two out of 50 were even interested in pet insurance. Instead, what they wanted was Sam’s Club membership.
“Get what employees want and need,” Yountz encourages. “If you offer the wrong things, it’s a demotivator. Show them you care by offering the right things that they want.”
Streaming channel and other TV service subscriptions go over big, as well, she notes.
Don’t Overlook These Perks
“I think it’s a given,” Yountz says. “If I went to work for at an oil and lube, I’d expect a discount when I need the services. That seems like a no-brainer—discount your employees and their immediate families using the services.”
And she adds, “Of course, you would have to define ‘immediate family.’ But if we take pride in our workplace, we want our family to come and know they’re taken care of.”
Time off is another no-brainer, because it’s something that everybody is going to want and need, at some point.
For Joback at 10 Minit Oil Change, it comes in the form of accrued paid vacation and four paid sick days.
Among Yountz’s quick lube clients, a worker’s ability to take time off is held sacrosanct.
“It’s an expectation for most places,” as she puts it, and she strongly suggests: “If an employer can’t provide time off with pay, at least have options to take it off without pay, and let employees know it’s ok. That’s worth its weight in gold.”
Can You Say, ‘4-day work week’?
This one might be part of the reason why some employers balk at asking employees what they would value most in terms of benefits. But it’s certainly worth considering, Yountz says.
“I just did a webinar on the four-day work week,” she says. “There are things companies can do that they don’t think of that can be a benefit.”
Encouraging owners of small shops to think boldly about all the possibilities, she says, “Know your workforce and the individuals that are working for you—and their circumstances. And then you can do more customized plans.”
While not necessarily a proponent of a four-day work week, Joback does see the need to identify creative offerings that will draw in good employees and hopefully keep them there.
“It’s rough to get people to work, in general, in the climate right now,” he sums up. “Employee retention is hard, too. And you don’t want customers to see new faces every single time they come in.”